About Charles Swanton
Discovering why some breast cancers are resistant to treatment
Professor Charles Swanton is based at our London Research Institute and is finding out how some cancers become resistant to the drugs used to treat them. In particular, he is looking at why drugs known as taxanes are not always effective in women with breast cancer. Professor Swanton specialises in translational research – using his discoveries in drug resistance to develop new ways to effectively treat cancer.
Studying samples from a clinical trial
Professor Swanton’s team is looking at small samples of breast tumour tissue taken from women who took part in the TACT trial. Some women in this trial received the current standard treatment for breast cancer, and some were also given a taxane. This was done to see whether adding a taxane would help stop the cancer coming back.
Professor Swanton is comparing DNA and proteins from the tumour samples to pinpoint the genetic differences that determine women’s responses to taxane treatment. He’s using sophisticated lab techniques to explore how genetic changes known as ‘chromosomal instability’ can cause a tumour to be resistant or sensitive to taxanes. Professor Swanton's previous research has already shown that chromosomal instability is found in ovarian cancers that are resistant to these drugs.
Towards more personalised medicine
Professor Swanton recently led an international study that identified six genes found in breast cancer cells that can help predict if the taxane drug paclitaxel will be effective in a particular patient.
This research could lead to a genetic test to show which people would benefit most from taxane drugs, allowing doctors to tailor treatment more effectively. It could also identify ‘chinks in the armour’ of taxane-resistant tumours that could be exploited to find new treatments for cancer.
Professor Swanton is also investigating how different parts of the same kidney tumour can show different genetic changes, to help develop tests that can predict which patients will respond to certain treatments. This research is part of Cancer Research UK’s Genomics Initiative – a set of groundbreaking projects using the latest high-tech gene sequencing machines to track down the genetic faults driving different types of cancer.
These projects will bring us a step closer to more personalised cancer treatment – making sure patients receive the treatments that will work best for them.